Are You Afraid Of Your Horse?


These questions are the most asked of me.
I hope to address these questions and more in the following article.
When I refer to “horse” in this article, it applies to all three types of horses;
a stallion, mare, or gelding.

Lets start first by me explaining why the horse acts the way he does.  It does not make a difference where your horse was born, whether in a pasture, stall, arena, or pen your horse was born with herd instincts.  The horse is a prey animal not a predator so he will always be on the look out for a predator that might want to hurt him.  A human being is a natural predator of the horse because most humans must kill for food in order to survive.  A horse knows this and it makes him very skeptical and afraid of most humans.  It is his natural instinct.  Horses have some defense weapons to defend him self.  He can bite, kick with all four legs and with his back legs he can kick straight back behind him and he can also kick you if you are standing along side of him.  Some call this a cow kick.  A cow most of the time kicks this way and that is where it gets it name.  Before he tries any of these things his first instinct is to flee and he can out run most predators.  The one place on his body that is hard for him to defend himself is when something is on his back, he can’t see you or know what you are doing when you are in that position.  His only defense is to try to throw you off by any means of bucking, scrapping, or rubbing to knock you off by going under a tree or anything that is available.  Part of the horses herd instinct is to lead or follow.  He will follow you if he understands what you want by the cues you give him, the degree that he connects with you, and how he feels about you.  Is he comfortable?  Is there any pain or discomfort involved?  Remember he gets very little benefit if any from you riding him.  I guess I can safely say that I have ridden over a thousand horses in my 69 years of riding, and I have been training horses professionally for 54 years.  I am currently 75 years old and still ride horse’s everyday that weather permits.  I have never seen a horse that was afraid of me or anyone else; but mistrust….yes.

The horse will most always try to get out of working and it is true that he does not know that you are afraid of him like a dog would.  He may know by past experiences with you that you are not leading him or he does not understand what you want.  I have had many people bring their horses to me to prove that his or her horse knows that they are afraid of them.  I proceed to tell them to go ahead and do what they normally do with their horse.  They start by trying to get on their horse by lifting their left leg to put their foot into the stirrup.  While doing this the horse may step away in the opposite direction or he might pin his ears back to bluff you into thinking that he is angry or he may not even stand still while you are trying to mount, plus there may be other things he may try.  These things do not mean your horse thinks you are afraid of him, he just knows he can have his way with you because it has been proven before.

I take the horse from my students and show them that I stand the horse still by using a harsh tone and pulling on his reins to make him uncomfortable.  I use the word “WHOA” to get his attention.  I put my left foot in the stirrup and I put my weight on that foot.  If the horse moves I will take my foot back out using the word “WHOA” and pull on his reins.  This process might allow me to put my weight on the stirrup, but when I go to cross my right leg over to the other side and he moves I immediately dismount him saying “WHOA” and pulling on his reins again.  When I finally get his attention and able to get on his back without him moving then I will speak to him in a soft tone, “Good Boy” or “What a Pretty Day It Is”.  Remember the horse does not speak English but he does react and associate with your tone of voice; a harsh tone with some sort of punishment or a soft tone of your voice being a reward.

I repeat this process of mounting the horse until he stands completely still and accepts it.  Now I let the owner try to mount his horse and the horse will normally go back to not letting him get on.  I tell him to do exactly what I did and in less time that it took me he will be able to get on his horse because the horse now knows the alternative.  Remember; do not hurt your horse becausethat can create a whole different problem.  There is never any reason to hurt a horse unless he tries to hurt you with malice.  And as far as the horse being afraid of you, it is simply because he mistrusts you.  You must assure him each day that you mean him no harm.  Like humans some horses are more nervous than others.  Your horse will get use to you petting, scratching, or brushing him because this feels good.  But when you want to mount him he thinks “wait a minute” this is not what I am use to doing.  Put yourself in his place for a moment.  How would you feel when going from being petted and brushed everyday to throwing a heavy saddle on your back pulling the girth real tight and putting a piece of steel in your mouth, you wouldn’t like this either, would you?  So you will have to reassure him that you are not going to hurt him and this is what he will have to expect each time you ride him.  In other words you are giving him a job and in turn his pay is a good life with lots of love.  From the time you put his halter on you are the one in charge, never but never let him have his way, you will have to fight him by starting the process over again to gain his respect back.  Make all movements towards your horse slow when getting him use to what you want him to do.  Start slow and let him smell everything from the saddle, saddle pad, and the bit.  Rub him with these items until he accepts these new gadgets and that they are not going to hurt him.  If you let someone else ride your horse until he is use to being ridden you will only confuse him.  Make sure first that your horse understands and is really adapted to what he is to do before you let someone else ride him.

If you have any further questions you can call me at my number that is listed on my website.  View the free videos on my website and it will give you instructions which go into detail and explain why on how to use your equipment and my technique for using them.  Good Luck.

Al Ragusin


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